• Author: Edgar Allan Poe
• Genre: short story in the horror genre
• Title: The Imp of the Perverse
• Published: July 1845 in Graham’s Magazine
• Length of story: 4 pages [16 paragraphs]
• Published by Penguin Books
• Setting: 1830-1840’s in prison cell, narrator tells his story…how he got on death row
• Theme: an impulse forcing people to act irrationally
• The Imp of the Perverse is a short story that begins as an essay.
• It discusses the narrator’s self-destructive impulses, embodied as The Imp of the Perverse.
• Poe wrote it to justify his own actions of self-torment and self-destruction.
• Many of Poe’s characters display a failure to resist The Imp of the Perverse.
• Murder in The Black Cat
• Narrator in Tell Tale Heart
• The opposite is displayed in the character C. Auguste Dupin.
• He exhibits reason and deep analysis.
• Part 1 Is written in essay style mentioning subjects
• in philosophical terms (primum mobile, à posteriori) ), logic (phrenology) and mysticism (Kabbala)
• Poe cleverly reveals the ‘narrator’s own ‘imp’ by being so wordy!
• The narrator admits he has always wanted to anger the listener (reader) with confusing language.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing….”
• “I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.” (pg 281)
• Part 2 contains the narrators story….
• He inherits an estate after murdering its owner.
• He ends up on death row after a perverse impulse causes him to confess the murder.
• The Narrator: An apparently demented man who appears intelligent and well educated.
• The Listener: Unnamed person listening to the narrator’s story.
• Madame Pilau: Woman who died after inhaling the smoke from an accidentally poisoned candle.
• The Murder Victim: Unnamed person whose property passed to the narrator.
• Pedestrians: People who witness the narrator’s confession.
Style: first person point-of-view with an unreliable narrator
• Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have
• misunderstood me altogether or […] fancied me mad. (pg 283)
• This is a spirit that tempts a person to do things….they would normally not do.
• Poe explains that the ‘imp’ is an impulse in each person’s mind.
• Alliteration: laconic and luminous language (pg 281)
• Climax: Poe uses a climax words that are arranged to increase their importance.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing ( to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker and in defiance of all consequences) in indulged.” (pg 282)
Voice of Poe:
• Poe states we use the word ‘perverse’ without really knowing what is means.
• Perverse = headstrong, obstinate, contradictory
• Poe is a master when it comes to entering human thoughts.
• He describes how we ‘put off until tomorrow that we could do today’ because we are perverse.
• With each passing day the anxiety grows.
• I do exactly what Poe describes…
• when I have to make an appointment for the dentist!
• “The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare.” (pg 282)
Voice of Poe:
• In paragraph 6 we read one of the famous lines:
• “ We stand upon the brink of a precipice.”
• Poe describes the uncontrollable urge to jump.
• I could only think of the Austrian, Felix Baumgartner.
• In 2012 he stood who on the ‘precipice’ of space before making his famous skydive from the stratosphere!
• This is one of Poe’s lesser known works.
• I expected great writing and got loopy sentences going on and on about nothing!
• After further reading I realized this was Poe’s intention….to irritate the reader!
• The story just kept getting better and better.
• Weak point: the first 4 paragraphs are difficult to get through.
• This almost deterred and discouraged me…but I did not stop!
• Strong point: the story in itself is ‘perverse’ .
• Poe deliberately uses confusing writing and structure to irritate the reader.
• A writer usually wants to please the reader!
• Poe preforms this “perverse” act that defies logic and reason.
• I thought I would just breeze through 4 pages of The Imp of the Perverse.
• How wrong I was.
• I have read each and every word in this story…twice!!
• That is an accomplishment in itself.
• Below is a summation of each paragraph.
• Read it ….or read the story first ……your choice.
• I was surprised by the style, structure and plot.
• Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe are works of art….
• …and deserve a high score.
Author: Mary Shelley
Shelley uses the classic ‘ 3 act’ structure.
introduction characters and location — conflict — resolution of problem.
Weak point: the re-birth of the ‘fiend’ and
…his discovery of nature, his senses and language.
33 sentences recording the creature’s every movement and or thought. (part 2, pg107).
I just lost interest.
The constant use of “the first person” narrative was numbing.
Deja-vu: death scene page 180 is exactly the same as
…episode #1.1 UK detective series “Broadchurch”.
I read the book while listening to the audio version.
I wanted the full experience.
Narrator: Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) is excellent as Victor Frankenstein.
Unfortunately the voice of ‘the creature, the fiend’ sounded
….like he was constantly on the verge of tears.
…not threatening enough.
Gothic: Frankenstein is an example of this genre.
The Gothic tradition rejected reason, clarity and rational thinking.
It focused heavily on imagination, emotion and extreme passion.
Themes: death (10 people die in the book!), decay, terror, confinement, entrapment.
Main character: (Victor) feels trapped in his own guilt….while shouting for relief and help.
Antagonist (grotesque creature) is confused and isolated.
Literary device: epistolary technique
Letters reveal back round and gives Shelley means to logically end the story.
Letters are a portrait of the soul, confession, mask.
Letters connotate privacy and intimacy.
Letters are used as a ‘frame story‘ (mise-en-abyme) – story within a story.
Shelley is not as skillful in this area. The book is filled with generic descriptions (snow capped mountains, dashing waterfalls,) and she fails to use color to paint a picture of the sun (mentioned 45x), moon (21x) and stars (12x). Shelley’s favorite colors promote the gothic mood of darkness (black 17x) and light (white 11x)
I could only find one symbol.
Ice (mentioned 41x) – represents Victor’s fate.
The creature leaves him a message:
“Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north,
…where you will feel the misery of cold and frost…”
I was not impressed with this novel.
It does have its lyrical moments…..but lacked gravitas.
Weak point: too much dull, stolid repetition of same words
…instead of lively, fleet narration.
repetitive: fiend (33x), guilt/guilty/guilt-ridden (27x), abhor (17x) and I/he/she/it found (89x)
Shelley describes nature, moon, stars, sun (sun,sunshine,sunset 60x)
…mist, storms, Mont Blanc, glaciers, sea, waves
…lakes, rocks, wind, Alps, Valley Chamounix… etc ad nausem.
Pages and pages with descriptions of wanderings
… of Victor and the creature.
It feels like ‘book-stuffing.
It just gets to be a bit too much. (Pages 94 – 103 are examples)
Strong point: This book is an amazing achievement
…for a young 19 year old woman, non-writer, failed poet in 19th C literary scene.
If you want a great gothic….read Dracula and leave this one on the shelf.
The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge, otherwise known as R.I.P. takes place every September 1st through October 31st.
The purpose of the R.I.P. challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, or Supernatural.
There are multiple levels of participation (Perils):
- Peril the First – Read four books, any length, that fit the definition of R.I.P. literature.
- Peril the Second – Read two books of any length.
- Peril the Third – This Peril involves reading one book.
- Peril of the Short Story – You can read short stories any time during the challenge.
- Peril on the Screen – This is for those of us who like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious, gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large.
- Peril of the Review – Submit a short review of any book you read.
This year I will do
- Peril the First
- Peril of the Short Story
- Peril of the Review if I find some time.
- All my selections are from my TBR that I am trying desperately to reduce.
- These are all potential reads….it all depends on my ‘spooky’ mood.
- Hashtag: #RIPXIII
- Hawthorne – Henry James – READ (essay)
- Frankenstein – M. Shelley – READ (Gothic novel)
- Dark Entries – R. Aickman – READ (short stories)
- The Raven – E. A. Poe – READ (poem)
- Aletheia – J.S. Breukelaar – READ (horror)